Edinburgh Libraries staff tell us which were their favourite books of the past year.
Alannah from Wester Hailes Library recommends not a book of the year, but a trilogy!
The Hell’s Library series by A. J. Hackwith is an incredible journey that deals with budding friendships, coping with loss, and choosing your own family in this crazy, messed up world. The stories are written from the perspective of multiple characters, so you really get a good feel for the world Hackwith has created and the complex relationships that develop throughout the trilogy. I initially picked the first book as it was advertised as an LGBTQ+ novel, and the sincerity with which queer and questioning characters are portrayed is incredibly refreshing. If you’re looking for a series to make you laugh with joy, cry in despair, and bite your nails in suspense – sometimes within the span of a few pages – this is an adventure you will want to embark on.
The Hell’s Library series by A. J. Hackwith –
1st Library of the Unwritten (2020) is available to borrow in print
2nd Archive of the Forgotten (2021) is available to borrow in print
3rd The God of Lost Words (2022) is available to borrow in print
Enya from Newington Library would like to recommend I’m glad my mom died by Jennette McCurdy
The reason I picked this book up is the same reason most people do – I was intrigued by the title and cover. That has got to be one of the most intelligently provocative marketing I’ve ever seen! As someone who grew up watching iCarly on Nickelodeon I was familiar with Jennette McCurdy, but wouldn’t necessarily have been interested in picking up her memoir if it weren’t for that title. Celebrity memoirs can be a bit hit or miss, but luckily this one lived up to the expectations it raised! I could not put it down at all, the audiobook was beautifully narrated by the author and the writing style was clear and concise. She perfectly illuminates her complex relationship with her family, especially her mother and the volatile home environment she had to navigate as a child. Even if the title takes you aback at first, by the end of it, you’ll come away thinking “I would be glad, too”.
I’m glad my mom died is available to borrow as an ebook, audiobook and in print.
Roshni from the Resources Team recommends Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au
My favourite read of 2022, Cold Enough for Snow is a beautiful, evocative book that captures the small details of life and holds them up to the light. It follows a mother and adult daughter on a trip to Japan in the Autumn – exploring the daughter’s longing for connection and the subjectivity of their shared experiences. I love how atmospheric and textured the writing is. Au’s well-observed images stick with you – ferns through a thick mist of rain, light shifting through an art gallery, streets lit up softly like lanterns. It’s a thoughtful book filled with memory, art, and dream.
Cold Enough for Snow is available to borrow in print.
Heather from South Queensferry and Kirkliston Libraries says she’s a big fan of Scottish fiction and one of her favourites this year was Hear No Evil by Sarah Smith.
Historical fiction’s not a genre I’d usually go for, but this book is based on the true story of a landmark Scottish legal case, so I was intrigued to read it.
The book begins in Glasgow, 1817, where a woman is witnessed throwing a child into the River Clyde. Jean is deaf and struggles to communicate with the authorities to tell her side of the story. Robert Kinniburgh, a teacher from the Deaf and Dumb Institute in Edinburgh is called upon to translate and becomes involved with investigations. He listens to Jean’s story at a time when the authorities are quick to dismiss those with disabilities. I was fascinated by the way the author depicts the conversations between Jean and Robert in the early days of BSL.
Sarah Smith paints such a vivid picture of Glasgow and Edinburgh that I felt like I’d been pulled right into the past! A really interesting and important read.
Hear no Evil is available to borrow in print.
Susan from the Digital Team highlights The Edinburgh Skating Club by Michelle Sloan
I love a book set in Edinburgh, there is something that elevates the experience of reading for me when I know the streets and buildings that are described. This year I have finished the latest Ambrose Parry novel set in Victorian Edinburgh and devoured all four of the fabulous contemporary-set Skelf’s series by Doug Johnstone.
My last foray into the literary capital however was for Michelle Sloan’s The Edinburgh Skating Club. It is a gentle, enjoyable romp set in the contemporary city and in Enlightenment Edinburgh with something for everyone – romance, history, mystery, women’s rights and a very famous painting! Sloan has taken real people for the historical sections of the book and created an interesting series of “what-ifs”, where the main character Alison Cockburn is able to break free from the social norms of the day in a very unexpected way.
The Edinburgh Skating Club is available to borrow as an ebook, audiobook and in print.
Clare from the Digital Team recommends A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
My most memorable book of the year began as a stop-gap read in between reservations. I was browsing the Libby catalogue and came across several titles by Bill Bryson, an author I’d not read in years. I decided on A Walk in the Woods, an account of Bryson’s attempt to hike the Appalachian trail, with his old friend, Stephen Katz. It’s rare for a book to make me laugh out loud, rarer still to find myself crying with laughter.
The Appalachian trail is more that a walk in the woods, it is almost 2200 miles of remote mountain wilderness. Together, Bryson and Katz faced scary animals, weather extremes, other hikers, tantrums and endless noodles. The book is a testament to enduring friendship, an inspiration for all armchair travellers and in parts, very funny.
A Walk in the Woods is available to borrow as an ebook, audiobook and print.
Mel from Corstorphine Library sneaks in two books of the year!
She recommends The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton
This was such a fun read. The book is set in an alternate Victorian Britain where there are pirates and assassins who just so happen to belong to a not-so-secret society of ladies who pull off heists and robberies in between attending balls and tea parties. The world that the author created was really interesting and the book had plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and one-liners. There is kidnapping, skulduggery, flying houses and a love story – it kind of has everything to keep you entertained!
Hedgewitch by Skye McKenna
This children’s book was an engrossing tale right from the start when the young protagonist Cassie runs away from her boarding school, is nearly kidnapped by goblins and then finds out that she is part of a family of witches who have been guarding the town of Hedgley and the border with Faerie.
I thought this book was exciting and a real page-turner. Cassie was such a likeable protagonist, and the story has broom-flying, talking cats, creepy forests, and a terrific band of friends. The second book in the series is out early in 2023 and I can’t wait to see what happens next to Cassie and her friends.
The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels is available as an ebook and in print.
Hedgewitch is available to borrow in print.
Doris from Central Lending says one of her favourite books of 2022 is At the Table by Claire Powell.
The novel focuses on the lives of the Maguire family and how they interact over the course of a year over a series of lunches, drinks and at times, awkward get togethers. Nicole is the daughter of Linda and Gerry and is the heart of the family, while her brother Jamie is the soul. Both react differently to the separation of their parents as they navigate their own lives and question the choices they make and the consequences of these decisions. The razor sharp dialogue is a joy to read and is a highlight of the novel.
At the Table is available to borrow in print.
Nicola from South Queensferry and Kirkliston Libraries book of the year was Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura.
I love Japanese books and find them to be fantastical and whimsical and this book did not disappoint.
This book is about a group of teenagers who are united by not being able to attend school, and are facing their own unique challenges and struggles. This storyline really resonated with me and had a personal connection, which made it an emotional and thought-provoking read. The teenagers are brought together through the magical portal of the mirror into another realm where they can leave their insecurities and anxieties behind and not be judged.
It has a lot to say about loneliness and anxiety and about the importance of being authentic and of reaching out to others. An unusual and captivating fairy tale, which is moving and unusual.
My favourite children’s book this year was Like a Charm by Elle McNicoll. Elle writes about neurodiverse characters in an empowering and positive way. This is a wonderful story set in a magical hidden world within Edinburgh, and I can’t wait to read the follow up which is coming out in February 2023.
Lonely Castle in the Mirror is available to borrow in print.
Like a Charm is available to borrow in print.
Bageshri from Stockbridge Library puts forward The Marmalade Diaries: The True Story of an Odd Couple by Ben Aitken as her book of the year.
I got attracted to the title of the book in the first place. It’s a charming book about a young man in his 30s and a lady in her 80s living together under the same roof during the strange period of Covid lockdown!
Although it doesn’t look like this inter-generational friendship is going to work at the beginning; but they end up having a heart-warming relation between them. The book is a light read full of warmth and humour. It speaks about the lockdown and the effect it had on people’s lives. You will relate to this story if you have or ever had an elder person in your life!
The Marmalade Diaries is available to borrow in print.
What was your favourite book of the year?